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Urban Designer Upbeat About San Diego’s Waterfront

The City of San Diego, the Port and the California Coastal Commission have a few weeks to negotiate a compromise on the first phase of the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan.

The mayor and many city leaders are impatient to break ground on the first phase of a long-planned project to beautify the bay front, near the Star of India.

But the Coastal Commission says it will not grant a permit until planners reach agreement with Coastal Commission Staff on the design of public space at the foot of Broadway.

An area originally designated as a public park has become a paved plaza in front of a new cruise ship terminal.

Mark Johnson, lead designer on the project, says he’s worked on other world class waterfronts, and San Diego's has all the elements for success.

“The entire 1.3 miles of the North Embarcadero plan actually includes a huge amount of public open space," Johnson said, "including passive green spaces, including active space, promenades, places to eat and any number of things that are typical of the most successful public waterfronts around the world.”

Johnson says trends in waterfront design have changed over the past decade and passive public parks are no longer considered as desirable as spaces that generate a lot of activity. He says a cruise ship terminal on the Broadway Pier is no bad thing, as it add dynamic activity to the area.

Johnson also argues that public open space in the adjoining Lane Field and Navy Broadway Complex parcels will add up to significant public space along the whole water front.

The Coastal Commission will reconsider the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan in mid-April.

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